Let these safety tips guide you through email, phone and live contacts
While Internet dating can open many doors for daters, you need to be smart and safe when meeting people online. Use these 5 Net SMART safety tips to protect your privacy. Based on interviews with hundreds of active internet daters for my dating book, SMART Man Hunting (http://www.smartmanhunting.com), I developed these guidelines for you.
In addition to these interviews, I personally tested 7 online dating sites, ended up with 4-7 dates/week and found my guy through an online matchmaker. You can also find love online.
When you search for love online, you need to be careful because not everyone has the same value systems. Be cautious when dealing with strangers and take precautions to shield your privacy at all costs.
While the flood of emails that you will receive from Internet dating can be a great ego boost, let these safety tips guide you through email, phone and live contacts.
1. Be Anonymous When Emailing
When you set up your Internet dating profile, matchmaking web sites will give you an account that allows you to stay anonymous. Avoid using anything that could identify you when you select your username or email address.
Set up an email account that is fun and anonymous. For example, if you have an email with your name in it, then do not use this account for online dating. Just figure out any kind of fictitious name or “handle.” If you’d like, you can use an email address that reveals something about yourself such as a hobby or personal trivia. For example, my email address was tied to my interest in sailing (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org). One of my male candidates used “greeneyes” as his username, which helped him stand out in the crowd.
2. Take a Second Look at the Photos
If you are suspicious about the age of a photo that you see on an Internet dating profile, you might want to ask the person for a recent photo. Check out the response and you might just be surprised by what comes back.
One of my dating coaching clients recently sent me two photos of a woman he met online with very different current versus profile photos. He was smart to ask for a recent photo.
I also interviewed a woman for SMART Man Hunting who had a surprising lunch with a guy who did not look anything like his profile photograph. The online photo made him look around 35 with dark hair, and when she went on the date, the guy was completely gray and closer to 50-years-old. You want to avoid this situation if possible.
3. SMART Phone Contact
After several safe email exchanges, you can cautiously move to the next Internet courtship level. Arrange time to speak on the phone and see if the conversation flows or is a struggle.
Because you are still dealing with a virtual stranger, you should use safety guidelines for connecting on the phone. First, if you are a woman, ask for the guy’s phone number and use Caller ID blocking (*67) when you call him so that your phone number is not revealed. You can even use Caller ID blocking on most cell phones so always try using *67 when placing first calls.
If you get to the point where you are comfortable giving out your phone number, use a cell phone or alternate number to your home phone. If someone is really creepy and has your home or work phone number, they can search for your address online using whitepages.com.
Trust your gut instincts when you talk to someone on the phone. If someone makes you feel the least bit uneasy or puts you off in any way, just say Next. It won’t get better if you meet in person. Remember there are plenty of other candidates out there. Next….
4. Continue to Put “Safety First” When Making Live Contact
When you decide to meet in person, pick a public place and make sure you are familiar with the area before you agree to the location (I skipped this research step and ended up meeting a guy in a restaurant that is in a Los Angeles gang neighborhood because I did not know the area – that mistake did not happen twice).
While you want to relax and have fun on your first date, you still need to play it safe. Meet your potential match at the rendezvous location–never rely on someone you don’t know for a ride. Don’t even accept a ride home even when you feel as though your date is on the up and up. If you drove, you also want to avoid allowing them to walk you to your car. It’s best to even keep the make, model and license plate of your car a secret.
My favorite meeting place is a local coffee shop, but not one too close to your home. If you schedule a lunch or dinner date, use valet parking when possible so that the candidate, who is primarily a stranger at this stage, cannot follow you to your car when you leave.
As a back-up plan, you may also want to give your date details (time, date and location) to a friend. If you are nervous, ask a friend to call you on your cell phone to check-in during the date.
Lastly, hold your cards close to your chest. Be careful about the amount of information you share during these first meetings and phone calls. Never give out your last name or address until you are comfortable with someone’s character.
5. Consider Background Checks
If you are curious, there are many ways to find out more about your potential mates. Internet search vehicles can help you find out details about candidates prior to meetings.
By searching on someone’s name online, you can easily gather information about their background. For example, if you use Google.com, you might find out about their educational degrees, work history, and personal information (I found out about someone’s marriage history and read a strange Valentine online from a guy’s ex-wife that made me think twice).
You can also click on the “Groups” button to learn more about their interests or check genealogy sites for family history. And if you get serious with someone you meet online, you can even go to the extreme of hiring a professional investigator to check out their history more thoroughly.
You can make love happen online and protect your privacy. You are playing the dating numbers game and the odds are in your favor that you will find your match. Be smart, safe and trust your gut instincts when dating online.
For more information about Internet dating tips or for coaching, check out Liz’s SMART Dating Packages on LookBetterOnline.com or pick up a copy of SMART Man Hunting (http://www.smartmanhunting.com)
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